While it’s fair to say that most people participate in sports for the adrenalin rush and are satisfied with the thrill they get from playing football or running a marathon, there are a few brave souls who like their hobbies to be a little bit more dangerous. These are the kind of people who don’t feel alive unless they are pushing their bodies to their limits and laying their lives on the line. Whether it’s by throwing themselves off a mountain or head-first down a waterfall, some people like to put the ‘Extreme’ in sport. We list out 10 of the most extreme sports on the planet. Just reading about them will get your heart racing, so think how it must feel to actually take part!
If the traditional skydive isn’t quite extreme enough for you then perhaps wingsuit flying will get your blood pumping. The sport was created in the late 1990’s and involves throwing yourself out of a plane or helicopter, thousands of feet in the air, before plummeting to earth. The wingsuit is then used to slow your fall and give you more control over your direction. The sensation of speed and flight in the high altitude creates an addictive adrenaline rush.
Some of the craziest wingsuit dives have included flying through the arch of a mountain and, perhaps craziest of all, a wingsuit flight without a parachute that was done by a British stuntman Gary Connery, he land on thousands of cardboard boxes unharmed!
Even though wingsuit flying sounds fun, it is still a really dangerous extreme sport. According to BASE Fatality List (BAFL) more than 300 people died performing this stunt. The reason for so many deaths is because wingsuit flying became popular only recently and more people joined the club thinking they can easily perform the jump. According to some experts even if you have done 200 skydives and a 100 BASE jumps it is still not enough to get you in the big league, more experience is required.
If you do take up the sport, make sure to practice a lot, get the right equipment and a mentor!
If you’ve ever jumped off the top board at your local swimming pool, then you’ll know what a frightening experience peering over the edge can be. Cliff diving takes this fear to a whole new level though and sees people throwing themselves off the sides of cliffs, into the choppy waters below. The dangers of this extreme sport are obvious, with a mis-timed dive leaving the possibility of smashing into the rocks below. The sport has become so popular that Red Bull has now organised a World Series, with competitors throwing themselves off platforms 26-28m above the sea and performing tricks on the way down. While the World Series has official safety marshals in place, it is the unorganised cliff dives that still hold the real danger (and thrill) for many people.
What is Highlining?
It is a form of extreme sport where a person walks a tightrope high above the ground. Can be also known as “slacklining up high”. The sport involves fixing a 1 inch thick rope between two mountains and walking over the gap in between.
Prominent Highlining stunts
In 2012 American rock climber Dean Potter crossed the Grand Canyon in China’s Hubei Province. He walked across a super thin 1 inch tightrope that was a whopping 1,800 metres above the ground. In the high altitude highliners have to contend with sudden gusts of wind that threaten to throw them off balance at any second. One wrong step and Mr Potter could have fallen to his death since he didn’t use any safety harness or net.
How Highlining works in a nutshell
A typical highliners gear would include a tightrope and anchors that are attached to rocks on both ends using steel bolts. This is a really important step that requires extreme caution since any mistake could cause the person falling to his death. A few pros do highlining without any safety equipment, however, most of the times it is done using the safety harness. In summary this sport requires nerves of steel and extreme balancing.
Highlining for beginners
Warning! If you are wondering if highlining is safe, it is definetily not! This is a really extreme and dangerous sport, however, if you are keen to get started be sure to get a one-on-one training with a pro and sign up to different slacklining blogs and groups. The community is really small and friendly within this sport.
If you’ve ever been skiing you’ll realise that it’s hard enough to stay upright on well-groomed pistes, so imagine how dangerous the sport of extreme skiing can be. This crazy activity also known as Freeskiing involves competitors being dropped off at the top of a mountain by a helicopter, before throwing themselves down 60+ degree slopes and avoiding jagged rocks and cliff edges. The skiiers not only have to contend with thick snow, ice, rocks and sheer drops, there is also the very real danger of being caught in an avalanche. This extreme sport really does push people to the edge, as one slip or false turn can end in tragedy.
Free Solo Climbing
It feels like the phrase ‘take your life in your own hands’ was created for the sport of free solo climbing. This extreme hobby involves people scaling sheer cliff faces, thousands of feet high, with no rope or safety harness to speak of. It is literally just the climber, a bag of chalk and the rock face. One slip will result in certain death and the climber has to remained focused for hours, and sometimes days, on end. While many climbers have attempted free solo climbing, only the very best can scale some of the steepest and highest mountains in the world. One of the most famous free soloists is American, Alex Honnold, who has scaled a number of the world’s most dangerous cliff faces, including the 2,500ft northwest face of the Half Dome in America’s Yosemite National Park.
Running of the Bulls
Although it is debatable whether the Running of the Bulls could be classed as a sport, there is no doubting that it is certainly extreme! This crazy ‘race’ involves members of the public dressing in white and red and running through the streets of Pamplona with a dozen angry bulls chasing them. Although it may seem fun at first, things change quite dramatically if any of the participants are caught by the bulls. Every year, an average of 40-50 people are injured at the event, with between 5-10 of these usually needing treatment for serious gore wounds from the bulls’ horns. Things don’t always end so well though and there have been a total of 15 deaths since record keeping began in 1910.
While most people would hold on for dear life if they were at the top of a mountain or skyscraper, some people have the urge to literally throw themselves off. Base jumping is similar to sky diving but the main difference is participants don’t jump out of a plane but throw themselves off fixed objects such as cliffs, buildings and bridges, before free-falling down and opening a parachute. The fact that jumpers are so close to solid structures (cliff faces and buildings) makes base jumping one of the most dangerous extreme sports in the world. The fatality and injury rate is 43 times higher than parachuting from a plane and figures from 2006 showed there was a rate of 1 death for every 60 participants!
If you’re scared of flying you might want to look away now! Wing walking involves being strapped to the roof of a plane and flown at speeds of over 200mph while holding on for dear life. Participants not only have to cope with the fear of being thousands of feet in the air, they also get thrown upside down and side to side as the plane performs a number of different tricks and spins. It might provide incredible views and an exhilarating ride but this is definitely one extreme sport where you don’t want to indulge in a big meal beforehand!
Climbing a sheer cliff face is hard enough when you have dry rock to cling onto, but ice climbing takes things to a whole new level. In some of the coldest places on earth temperatures drop so low that waterfalls and entire cliff faces become covered in ice. This has given adventurers the perfect excuse to invent a new extreme sport, ice climbing. This activity sees participants use cramp-ons and ice picks to scale huge formations of ice. While the frozen cliffs and waterfalls might be beautiful to look at, actually climbing up the slippery ice takes an enormous amount of strength and power. Definitely not one for the faint of heart!
If canoeing or kayaking down river rapids isn’t extreme enough for you, why not have a go at creeking. This incredibly dangerous sport involves people throwing themselves off waterfalls in nothing but a kayak and plunging into the waters below before doing it all again a few more metres down the river. The kayakers don’t only have to contend with the huge drops and powerful water though, as they also run the risks of crashing against jagged rocks under the surface or being sucked under by the rapids. This is definitely not a pleasant paddle down river!
Big Wave Surfing
While most people find it enough of a challenge just staying upright on a surfboard, there are a special few who seek out the largest and most dangerous waves in the world. Big Wave surfing competitions involve people coming together from all over the planet to surf on waves measuring 40 foot+ in height. The conditions have to be just right for the competitions to take place and see surfers battling against waves that have the power to push them 20 to 50 feet below the surface. Once they regain their bearings they only have a matter of seconds to resurface before the next giant wave hits. This is surfing to the very highest extreme!
The thought of exploring an underwater cave system might sound like a relaxing and pleasant experience, but there are very real dangers involved with the sport. Many cave systems can contain hundreds of different underwater tunnels and caverns and divers can often get lost exploring and fail to find their way back to the surface before their air runs out. There is also further danger to be found in the fact that many cave systems drop hundreds of metres underwater, causing deep diving risks from the increased water pressure. Finally, the poor visibility in some underwater caverns also means if a diver has problems and needs to make it to the surface quickly, it can be almost impossible to find their way back out!
If being in the close vicinity of a volcano wasn’t a frightening enough prospect, how does sliding down the side of its steep slopes on a thin piece of board? Volcano surfing was invented by Australian Darryn Webb in 2005 and involves participants strapping a thin plywood or metal board to their feet and throwing themselves head first down the steep ash slopes of volcanoes. The boarders can reach speeds of up to 50mph and a fall can result in serious cuts and burns from the sharp and rough volcanic ash. This is boarding-surfing taken to the extreme!
The extreme sport of street luge was first created in Southern California and involves competitors lying down on a skateboard or luge board and throwing themselves down steep paved roads at incredible speeds. The first official race was held in 1975 and there is now an annual world championship that sees the greatest lugers from around the world competing head-to-head. The world record speed for street luge was recorded in 2008, when a competitor clocked an impressive 97.81mph. The fact that participants are mere millimetres from the road makes the record all the more incredible!
If surfing or water skiing aren’t ‘extreme’ enough hobbies for you, then kiteboarding should certainly help to get the pulse racing. The sport involves strapping a surfboard to the participant’s feet and using a powerful kite to, not only pull them along the water, but also up into the air, allowing them to perform a number of tricks. One of the most impressive kiteboarding stunts was performed by Lewis Crathern in 2010, when he managed a 50ft jump over Brighton Pier. The former British kitesurfing champion spent 2 hours on the water preparing for the jump, waiting for the perfect conditions before timing his leap to perfection and safely clearing the pier.
Downhill Mountain Biking
You might think that mountain biking is a strange sport to include on an ‘extreme’ and ‘dangerous’ list, but if you’ve ever watched or participated in a downhill event you will fully understand why it deserves its place in the top 20. The discipline sees competitors throwing themselves down steep mountainside tracks with the sole aim of getting to the bottom as quickly as possible. Participants not only have to contend with rough terrain, jumps, drops and muddy conditions, they also have to stay alert at all times as one slip can bring them crashing down against sharp and craggy rocks and boulders. This is definitely one sport that is fully deserving of the title ‘extreme!’
The sport of free running may look stylish and effortless on films and Youtube videos but the risks are very much real. The martial discipline is a form of parkour and sees participants running across, up, down and over buildings and obstacles. Free runners must maintain an incredible level of focus, as one slip can mean mistiming a jump and falling to the concrete below. A successful free run looks incredible but the consequences of a slip or fall can result in cuts, bruises and often broken bones.
There are 6 grades of white water rafting, starting from the relatively gentle Grade 1, all the way up to the incredibly dangerous Grade 6. Rafters attempting to navigate down Class 6 rapids can expect to come across severe whitewater, huge rocks, substantial drops and large waves. The real danger of a grade 6 route occurs if the raft capsizes though, as the crew are often swept down river and run the risk of being dragged underwater or smashed against jagged rocks. Only the most experienced (and extreme) rafters are capable of surviving a Grade 6 section of water.
When it comes to having nerves of steel, freestyle motorcross riders have to be near the top of the pile. The sport sees participants not only performing huge jumps on their bikes but also pulling-off incredible tricks while flying through the air. They then have mere seconds to regain control of the bike, while still in mid-air, before attempting a safe landing. When you consider that some of these jumps measure over 75ft, you realise the dangers of a mis-timed landing; one small mistake can result in a high-speed crash, with the real risk of broken bones and even death.
Snowkiting is a similar discipline to kite boarding but, as the name suggests, the water is replaced by snow and the surfboard replaced by skis or a snowboard. Snowkiting is arguably even more extreme than kite boarding though, as participants have to deal with sudden gusts of wind coming off the mountain tops that can cause the kite to behave erratically and result in them suddenly being pulled from the slopes. Surrounded by jagged rocks, snow and ice, the risks of losing control of a kite can be extremely severe. This is definitely one extreme sport where beginners need not apply!
If you enjoyed our list, be sure to check out 10 crazy stunts you probably have never seen,